After voting against amending a bill that would have stopped water companies from dumping raw sewage into Britain’s rivers and seas, MPs are now facing backlash.  

Just 22 Conservatives rebelled against the Government last week by voting for an amendment to the Environment Bill which sought to place a legal duty on water companies not to pump sewage into rivers. 

Sewage pollution is a key component in what MPs have heard to be a chemical cocktail that pollutes rivers. Raw sewage was discharged into water more than 400,000 times last fiscal year.

The amendment, introduced in the House of Lords by the Duke of Wellington, would have also forced water companies and the Government to ‘take all reasonable steps’ to avoid using the combined sewer overflows, which regularly release untreated waste into rivers and seas.

Surfers Against Sewage and other campaign groups said it was vital to get action started to combat sewage pollution now.

However, Environment Secretary George Eustice advised MPs to reject amendments. The bill comes just days after Boris Johnson hosts world leaders in Glasgow at the Cop26 climate summit.

Social media users posted images of the MPs who rejected the amendment after the vote.  

MPs have voted against amending a bill to stop water companies dumping raw sewage into Britain's rivers and seas (stock image)

MPs voted no to amend a bill to prevent water companies from dumping raw waste into Britain’s rivers, seas and oceans (stock photo)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the Covid vaccine centre at the Little Venice Sports Centre in west London, on October 22, 2021

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, during a visit at the Little Venice Sports Centre in west London’s Covid vaccine center on October 22, 2021

The vote caused a huge backlash on social media, with Twitter users posting images of the MPs who shot down the amendment

Twitter users posted images of the MPs who voted against the amendment, causing a massive backlash on social media.

Just hours after ministers from the environment announced plans to restore and protect England’s rare chalk streams, Hertfordshire’s River Mimram has turned PURPLE with pollution 

River Mimram in Hertfordshire became purple from pollution just hours after environment ministers took photographs in front of it to discuss plans to restore rare chalk streams.

It was a beautiful stream when Rebecca Pow, environment minister, and members of the Chalk Stream Restoration Group visited it.

Feargal Sharkey, a clean river campaigner and pop star, shared a picture of the stream on Twitter shortly after they left.

Campaigners stated that this shows the dire state of Britain’s rivers. 53% are in a poor condition and only 14% are in a ‘good ecological state’.

The Environment Agency claimed that the river had returned to normal by the time it returned to investigate and found no evidence of any damage to fish.

It is not clear what caused it to turn purple but campaigners suggest that it could have been an algae bloom or dyes from industry.

One person asked the question: “What kinda person votes to allow water corporations to pump rawsewage into our drinking water?”

Another wrote: “I just emailed my MP asking her to explain the benefits of rawsewage being dumped in our waterways.”  

The measure is now set to return to the Lords on Tuesday, where peers are expected to send it back to the Commons later next week – possibly on Thursday – and force another vote among MPs.

The Duke of Wellington, a crossbench peer, said he believed the amendment would stimulate investment in improving the systems, which date back decades and are in severe need of upgrades.

It comes as figures collected by charity the Rivers Trust show that all of England’s rivers are currently failing to pass cleanliness tests, with 53 per cent of them in a poor state at least partly because of water companies releasing raw and partially-treated sewage. 

The Telegraph reported that only 14 percent of England’s rivers are in a good ecological condition and none are in a good chemical state. This is because water companies are allowed to release raw sewer into rivers and seas as part a ‘combined waste overflow’, which is a legacy from Britain’s Victorian drainage system. 

This means rainwater and liquid waste are combined in the same tanks and Overflows into waterways are used as an escape valve and not to back up into homes or streets. 

Feargal Sharkey (ex-Undertones singer) is one of those fighting to clean up British waters. She last year announced plans for legal action against the Environment Agency’s management and control of England’s rivers.

He previously said: ‘As a nation, we’re going to have to face a very simple situation. Do we want our rivers to be full of our own human wastes?

“The truth is, unfortunately there’s been an issue over the long term about failure to regulatory oversight, lack leadership, most notably driven by concerns about water prices, and now we’ve reached a situation through incompetence where every river is basically full of sewage.”

MPs were told in April last year that water companies poured raw wastewater into rivers for three millions hours last year while paying dividends to shareholders billions.

The environmental audit committee heard that the huge Mogden treatment plant sent the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools worth of raw effluent into the Thames over two days last autumn.

Sewage can only be discharged during heavy rain periods, but Mr Sharkey stated to MPs that the River Chess and Chesham plants in Buckinghamshire were ‘discharging sewage for 35 consecutive days’.

Last year, raw sewage was discharged into waters more than 400,000 times. Pictured: Pollution in the Jubilee River at Eton Wick, Berkshire last year

Last year, rawsewage was discharged into water more than 400,000 times. Pictured: Pollution in the Jubilee River at Eton Wick, Berkshire last year

Peter Hammond is a retired professor of computational Biology at University College London. He said that his analysis on sewage treatment works had revealed 160 breaches of permits issued by the EA for sewage discharges.

He stated that the watchdog had only prosecuted 174 cases in the past decade for illegal discharges.

Hammond explained to MPs that his research revealed that many of the treatment plants don’t continue to treat a minimum level of sewage when they’re spilling. Many of these illegal spillages aren’t being identified by EA.

“My research revealed 160 permits were violated in 2020,” said a researcher. I believe they are in order of magnitude that I think is 10 times more … than the agency have identified.’

According to the EA, there were 403,171 sewage spillages into England’s rivers or seas in 2020 because of storm overflows. The EA also stated that there were more spillages than 3.1 million hours in 2020.

As part of a pledge for greater transparency around the issue, the data was made public ‘proactively’.